Thai and foreign businessmen demand swift national reform

Thai and foreign businessmen demand swift national reform

Thai and foreign businessmen are cautiously optimistic one week after the Prayut Chan-o-cha government took office, but have warned the post-coup administration to swiftly deliver on promises to stamp out graft and boost the economy.

Pramon Sutivong, chairman of the Anti-Corruption Organisation of Thailand (ACT), admitted that certain quarters of society are uneasy about the the level of power held by the military-dominated government.

"But we should give them some time and judge their performance based on their results. It's still too early to say whether they are no good," he said.

The new administration has at least identified corruption as an urgent issue and put it on the national agenda, Mr Pramon said. He added that the government seems to be receptive to the ACT's suggestion for integrity pacts to be included in all public sector contracts.

Integrity pacts were developed by Transparency International to prevent corruption. The pacts aim to promote transparency, integrity and oversight of bidding and implementation in public sector projects.

Mr Pramon said the government had indicated it would use an integrity pact for its Suvarnabhumi airport Phase 2 development plan. The project has been put on hold, but Mr Pramon said he was pleased that the pacts are being seriously considered.

The chairman called on all National Council for Peace and Order members to follow the lead of cabinet ministers and voluntarily declare their assets to prove transparency and leadership.

"It would be a good example to set. This should be applicable to those who volunteer to help steer the reform mission by sitting on the National Reform Assembly too," he said.

David Lyman, chairman of law firm Tilleke & Gibbons, said Gen Prayut seems to be a sincere man and is backed by a number of experienced technocrats.

But having the right mindset and getting the bureaucracy moving is a different matter, he said, adding that the prime minister must be able to learn quickly and keep up the momentum of reform.

Mr Lyman warned the potential for corruption and abuse of power continues to be Thailand's main problem. Curbing graft in large infrastructure projects should be the top priority, he said.

Piyabutr Cholvijarn, vice-chairman of the Board of Trade, backed the government's goals of tackling socio-economic and political troubles, but said it was a pity the average age of those working in government is so high.

He said the government of Field Marshal Sarit Thanarat in the late 1950s was filled with young and energetic officials working in the Finance Ministry, the Bank of Thailand and the National Economic and Social Development Board.

Chumpol Phornprapha, adviser to the Federation of Thai Industries, said the Prayut administration cannot afford a "honeymoon period" since pressing issues such as education reform and corruption must be tackled urgently.

He said the government will have to be careful about its actions or face a fierce public backlash against dubious activities.

The adviser cited the recent microphone procurement debacle as an example of how people will no longer stand for scandal.

Stanley Kang, chairman of the Joint Foreign Chambers of Commerce in Thailand, said the organisation is looking forward to meeting the prime minister and key cabinet members to present their views on economic issues.

Marc Spigel, the vice-chairman, said it has hundreds of pages of recommendations to present to the Prayut government.

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